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Even Oscar show producers Brett Ratner and Don Mischer were surprised when Eddie Murphy quickly agreed to host the 84th Academy Awards, which will be broadcast by ABC on Feb. 26. As the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences moved quickly to make the news official on Tuesday, the two producers discussed why Murphy decided to host the Oscars for the first time in his career.
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The Hollywood Reporter: The Academy named you as the show’s producers early last month. How quickly did you approach Eddie Murphy about hosting?
Brett Ratner: We were going through our options, and I just happened to be with Eddie because obviously I’m making a movie [Tower Heist] with him. It was a very casual conversation. I was told by [Academy president] Tom Sherak specifically not to ever ask anyone directly if they will be the host. He told me also to be prepared that, everyone is going to say no to you. Everyone says no because no one wants to do it. We were not at the point where we were going to decide. Don threw some names in the hat, I threw some names. But like I said, when I mentioned it to Eddie, he said, “Oh, my God, that would be a huge idea.” I immediately called Don and said, ‘I think Eddie might do it,’ and Don said,’ I don’t think there’s a chance in hell.’ I didn’t believe it either, because he doesn’t do a lot. That’s what’s so cool about it. He has such admiration and love for the Academy despite his incidents in the past. He’s just a fan of movies and Hollywood and the Academy itself. And the Oscars for a stand-up comedian, who’s also a movie star, it’s the ultimate platform There’s Lenny Bruce, there’s Richard Pryor, there’s Eddie Murphy. Those are the three icons of stand-up comedy.
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Don Mischer: He’s never hosted before. It was kind of a little bit of an unexpected choice, which we think could work to our advantage in creating interest in the show.
THR: So after that conversation, how quickly did it come together?
Ratner: Because he was open to the idea, I went through the normal routes. The Academy made a formal ask, which happened in the matter of one day. The Academy, meaning Tom Sherak and [executive director] Dawn Hudson called up his representatives. I don’t know the details of how it all works. But then when they came back and said, here’s the draft of a press release, it just happened like that. I thought, wow, he is serious about it.
THR: So did this just all come together in the last few days?
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Ratner: It literally just happened over the weekend. I had a coversation this weekend with Eddie, but from the moment he said he’d consider it, it happened really fast. From the moment he said he’d consider it to the release was just literally over the holiday weekend.
THR: Don, have you ever worked with Eddie Murphy before on any of the other live shows you’ve done?
Mischer: Eddie appeared on a show we produced back in May, The Comedy Awards. He received the Comedy Icon Award. It was the first time it had ever been given to anybody by 1300 members of the comedic universe – actors and writers and producers. I met him. We worked with him. He was terrific to work with. Did all the press, interviews, stayed late to talk to people afterwards. It was the first time I’ve ever personally worked with him and it was a very positive experience.
THR: Was the conversation always about Eddie being the sole host. Did you have any conversations about a co-host, someone like Ben Stiller, who Eddie’s starring with in Tower Heist?
Ratner: Well, then they’d really be saying I’m trying to promote my movie. You know, I talked a lot with him about what’s worked in the past. I personally loved Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin – I thought they were great. But there are political issues when you have two comedians. You can imagine.
Mischer: We’re hoping to design a show that really is fast-paced and moves quickly. We’re hoping that we can get the show off the air right on the three-hour mark. I’m not making promises. It’s really more efficient if you have one host. There are really advantages to having a single host.
Ratner: I wouldn’t have anyone share the stage with Eddie Murphy. Some other choices, maybe it would be fine.
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THR: How far have you gotten on specifics. Could Eddie bring in any of his characters? Will he be using his own writers?
Ratner: We haven’t gone as far as getting into that. Eddie Murphy is going to bring it, that’s my opinion. He knows the meaning of the Oscars and what an impact it has globally. He’s going to work really hard and deliver for audiences. That’s what he does. I’ve never seen him on a stage, before a crowd, not be funny. That’s what he does. He makes people laugh. Don’t underestimate a genius. Eddie’s not a star by accident.
THR: What about other talent on the show? There’s still the question of whether there’s a role for Billy Crystal?
Ratner: Again, I just got the job a few weeks ago. We’ve got the host and everything is going to fall into place. I would be completely honored if Billy would agree to be part of it. I’d definitely be excited if he would be interested.
Misher: It would be terrific. He’s certainly one of the three greatest Oscar hosts of all time, along with Hope and Carson.
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